Stratovarius
Elysium


3.0
good

Review

by Mike Stagno EMERITUS
January 10th, 2011 | 31 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: While Elysium is not quite a return to form, Stratovarius seem to be moving in the right direction.

Helloween really couldn't have picked a more appropriate band to support them on their 7 Sinners Tour than Stratovarius. There's more than a few parallels between their respective careers and not just because the two are among the most influential in power metal. While they've each had their fair share of successes, both Helloween and Stratovarius have also faced a great deal of (well documented) adversity. Between all the internal drama, which eventually saw the exit of important band members, as well as poor musical output, future prospects must have looked bleak. But Helloween was able to bounce back; 2010's 7 Sinners was their best record in twenty-two years, and the two that preceded it were worthy listens as well. Stratovarius isn't quite there yet, but with Timo Tolkki gone, and the songwriting reins taken up by pretty much every one else, they seem to be moving in the right direction.

Elysium more or less continues where Polaris left off in 2009. Think mid-paced, European power metal they helped popularize years ago alongside groups like Helloween and Sonata Arctica. Hardly revolutionary, to be sure, but that isn't Stratovarius' aim. Unfortunately, this serves to limit the scope of Elysium. As far as middling power metal goes, the album is top notch. But at the end of the day, middling power metal is still middling power metal. Give Stratovarius credit for when they do pull through; Matias Kupiainen's guitar work is consistently excellent, particularly in "Darkest Hours", and keyboardist Jens Johansson is no slouch as well. Problem is, this doesn't happen often enough. In a song like "The Game Never Ends", while the riffing is quite good, the formulaic structure and bland chorus hold it back. This isn't a problem unique to Stratovarius (one might remember Helloween struggling with the same issue ten years ago), but rather comes with the whole melodic power metal shebang. Because of how derivative it is, it's difficult to be very impressed. That isn't to say it can't be done; Sonata Arctica very nearly perfected the style between Elicptica and Reckoning Night. But they were successful because they incorporated a far more spirited dynamic into their music, something that can't be said about Stratovarius consistently enough.

Interestingly, Stratovarius shows the most promise on the album's title track. Given the uneven level of quality heard throughout Elysium, (and the unfortunate tendency of other groups to screw up this type of song) an eighteen minute track seems ill-advisable. But it works. Although not departing too far from the band's comfort zone, "Elysium" at least breaks out of the rigid power metal model that constrains a lot of the earlier material. In doing this, Stratovarius adopts a more progressive approach, seamlessly incorporating a number of different movements into what turns out to be the most satisfying song the band has released in years. Impressively, Stratovarius avoid sounding bloated and overbearing, a pitfall that traps so many of their contemporaries; what could have sunk Elysium instead emerges as its biggest highlight.

As it stands, Stratovarius haven't quite recaptured the flare that helped them claim initial success. However, Elysium is at the very least a clear step above much of the material the band has released, and considering how weak Stratovarius was, it’s a start. The band still has trouble with consistency and variance, and given how keen Stratovarius seems to be on playing it safe, Elysium is unlikely to draw in new listeners. However, the solid songwriting in the title track is encouraging enough; whether Stratovarius can fully revitalize ala Helloween remains to be seen, but listeners finally have reason for optimism.



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user ratings (119)
Chart.
3.4
great
other reviews of this album
GravityHurts (3)
This album summarizes Stratovarius' work almost perfectly; Generic, with a few incredible standouts....

lak89 (3.5)
Not quite there yet, but Elysium proves that there is life after Tolkki....


Comments:Add a Comment 
AdenZerda
January 10th 2011


118 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Bands like Stratovarius are the kind of thing that I tend to leave behind when I go off exploring music, but when I come back I can always enjoy what they have to offer. The title track on this album is my favorite thing they've done in years.

Solid 3.5 due to the rest of the album being pretty standard and of sometimes faltering consistency.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
January 10th 2011


15051 Comments


that...cover....

Mikesn
Emeritus
January 11th 2011


3709 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

power metal prerequisite

Digging: Grimes - Visions

WatchItExplode
January 11th 2011


3273 Comments


Wow, new Stratovarius...really? I've only heard Visions but these guys have been around forever and had a dozen or so line up changes right?

Digging: Giant Squid - Minoans

acADHDemy
January 11th 2011


1124 Comments


Stratovarius the bunny

WatchItExplode
January 11th 2011


3273 Comments


keeps going. and going. and going

edit: formed 1984

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
January 11th 2011


6205 Comments


ah the memories from that band...

It's weird that Timo Tolkki is not around anymore.

Quality releases from Stratovarius (there may be more, though):

Twilight Time
Dreamspace
Episode



Digging: Seduced (AT) - The Proclamation

sifFlammable
January 11th 2011


2741 Comments


so i heard blind guardian eats this band alive

DoubtGin
January 11th 2011


6752 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yea this is ok

SloppyMilkshake
January 11th 2011


981 Comments


That album cover is very..."lulwut".

Mikesn
Emeritus
January 11th 2011


3709 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Quality releases from Stratovarius (there may be more, though):[...]
Visions is pretty popular too
so i heard blind guardian eats this band alive
Maybe. Helloween and Gamma Ray are better than both.

Nagrarok
January 11th 2011


8259 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Again this could have been only a Mike Stagno review. I think I've heard Visions a whole while back. And Blind Guardian is definitely better than Helloween and Gamma Ray, way more consistent, and stronger vocally.

Poet
January 11th 2011


5935 Comments


Gamma Ray is absolutely boring. I've listened to a lot of Helloween the past couple of weeks and they are quite amazing at times.

As for Stratovarius I have always found them a bit mediocre save a few songs, but I'll probably give this a listen.

pizzamachine
January 11th 2011


12571 Comments


I heard the first song and was unimpressed. I doubt the rest is any better. Solid review.

Dreamflight
January 11th 2011


1760 Comments


I really tried to like these guys, but only Elements pt1 grabbed my attention. Maybe I should check this one, mostly because of the eighteen mts song. Long power metal epics usually rock.

Blind Guardian is another league of power metal, in fact calling Blind Guardian power metal is kinda depreciative imo.



Nagrarok
January 11th 2011


8259 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Calling Blind Guardian not power metal is wrong. But they are another league, that I agree with.

Dreamflight
January 11th 2011


1760 Comments


Maybe I was too radical, the thing is power metal nowdays is so outworned with bands mimicking each other all the time, that acts like Blind Guardian are like an oasis in a desert of ideas imo.

qwe3
January 11th 2011


21362 Comments


cover is so power metal

Nagrarok
January 12th 2011


8259 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Album is so-so.

ameypv
January 17th 2011


807 Comments


why do stratovarius even care to produce new albums now :|



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